Kazakhstan: Police Claim Exonerating Video From Zhanaozen – So Where Is It?
Police in Zhanaozen, scene of deadly riots on December 16 when security forces opened fire on protestors, have been pouring over video of the incident—as well they might. They stand accused of shooting unarmed demonstrators, killing 15 according to the official death toll (rights groups say the true figure may be higher). An incriminating video challenges the official version that police fired in self-defense. Now police claim to be in possession of video exonerating themselves, Kazakhstan Today reports.“They started it,” Zhanaozen police chief Mukhtar Kozhayev said. “This is registered by all the video recordings.” Police tried to hold protestors seeking to disrupt Independence Day celebrations back, he said, but “they broke through our encirclement, some officers were beaten up” and “bottles, rocks, and steel bars flew at us.”Kazakhstan Today quoted Kozhayev as saying video showed people “shooting from sawn-off shotguns and pistols.” Unfortunately, there is no record of Kozhayev showing this mysterious video to exonerate his own officers.Police have also been scrutinizing the incriminating YouTube video—and they are on the tail of those that filmed it from the window of an apartment block, Tengri News reports. “The address has been established, but the inhabitants have not been found. They may be in [nearby city] Aktau,” regional police chief Amanzhol Kabylov said ominously.Astana has not reacted to the video, nor to Human Rights Watch allegations of torture of detainees in custody in Zhanaozen.President Nursultan Nazarbayev has already absolved the police from blame and is convinced that bogeymen third forces were behind the unrest. “The goal was to sow discord in our society—social, interethnic, inter-religious, and so on,” he told a cabinet meeting on December 26. He said “organized criminal groups” were behind the unrest, and that links to groups abroad have been uncovered. Nineteen people are in detention in Zhanaozen facing charges over the riot. Nazarbayev has fired oil company bosses for failing to resolve the industrial dispute in the energy sector that spilled into violence. On December 26 the expected dismissal of the president’s son-in-law Timur Kulibayev as head of the Samruk-Kazyna fund (which oversees all state assets including national energy company KazMunayGaz) was made official: Prime Minister Karim Masimov announced on Twitter that Kulibayev had been replaced by First Deputy Prime Minister Umirzak Shukeyev.Nazarbayev pointed out at the cabinet session that the Zhanaozen violence is a “challenge” for Kazakhstan. As he distances himself and finds scapegoats in the oilmen while leaving security bosses untouched, time will tell if the president is capable of rising to it.
Joanna Lillis is a journalist based in Almaty and author of Dark Shadows: Inside the Secret World of Kazakhstan.
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